Two days after the New York Times obtained documents that revealed he had repeatedly edited scientific reports to downplay and cast doubt on the link between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, Philip A. Cooney resigned as chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Mr. Cooney was once the oil industry’s point man in its fight against limits on greenhouse gases. Prior to 2001, Mr. Cooney was “climate team leader” and a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute.
Although Mr. Cooney is an attorney with a bachelor’s degree in economics and no scientific training whatsoever, internal documents including handwritten notes on drafts of several reports from 2002 and 2003 show that he deleted or edited descriptions of climate research that had already been approved by government scientists and their supervisors.
Many of these changes appear in the final reports and, whether subtly or otherwise, suggest there is doubt about findings the majority of climate experts agree are amply supported by the scientific proof.
The New York Times obtained the documents in question from the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit legal-assistance group for government whistleblowers. The Times published an excellent article on June 8 that set forth many of the changes made by Mr. Cooney which raised serious questions as to his, and the White House’s, motivations and agenda in this matter.
The New York Times article quoted an anonymous senior scientist in the Environmental Protection Agency who stated that the kind of changes made by Mr. Cooney had a “chilling effect and has created a sense of frustration.”
Many observers see Mr. Cooney’s actions as a policy driven intervention by the government that places politics above science. The White House took the position that the changes in question were part of the normal interagency review process and that Mr. Cooney’s abrupt resignation was not connected to the disclosure of his editing activities.
The White House released a statement through Dana Perino, a deputy spokeswoman, that: “Phil Cooney did a great job, and we appreciate his public service and the work that he did, and we wish him well in the private sector.”
Now, under the heading: “Does a leopard change its spots,” Mr. Cooney has been hired by Exxon Mobil. The company declined to reveal what Mr. Cooney’s job will be. Mr. Cooney did not respond to e-mails and telephone calls from the New York Times.
Exxon Mobil has been in the forefront of advertising and lobbying efforts that dispute the need to limit carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas associated with fossil fuel combustion). Company spokesman, Tom Cirigliano, stressed Exxon Mobile’s commitment to act responsibly on the issue and to reduce emissions in its own operations and in customer use of its products.
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